June 19, 2024
"(Santos) blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit," the report said.

By Kevin Freking | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Democratic lawmaker moved Tuesday to force a vote this week on expelling Rep. George Santos from the House, calling it a necessary step if Republicans fail to take action in light of the recent ethics report that found Santos blatantly stole from his campaign and deceived donors.

Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., brought back to the floor legislation he first introduced in February to force the expulsion vote. Republicans were successful in turning aside Garcia’s earlier effort, but now that the Ethics Committee has released its findings about Santos from its monthslong investigation, Garcia said it’s time to act.

“Whatever it takes to get that vote this week, is what we’re doing,” Garcia said.

Expelling Santos, a Republican from New York, would require support from at least two-thirds of House members voting. Garcia said he expects to reach that number easily, which would make Santos just the sixth member of the House to be removed by his colleagues, and only the third since the Civil War.

Santos has rejected any suggestion he step down before an expulsion vote.

“Expel me and set the precedent so we can see who the judge, jury and executioners in Congress are,” Santos said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “The American people deserve to know!”

Santos has survived two prior expulsion votes. The first occurred in May on Garcia’s resolution when the House, at the urging of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, voted along party lines to refer the matter to the Ethics panel. The second vote occurred earlier this month when fellow New York Republicans sought to distance themselves from their scandal-plagued colleague and forced a vote.

Many who voted against expulsion said it was important to wait on the Ethics panel to complete its investigation.

“In modern times, it is House precedent that Representatives are only expelled after conviction of a felony,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said in a prepared statement. “In the matter involving Rep. Santos, the Ethics Committee has now found and documented conduct that is as serious as that of Members who on prior occasions have been expelled following felony convictions.”

Lofgren voted against expulsion earlier this month. She said precedents are important to follow, but “every precedent had a first time” and that now she would vote to expel.

The Ethics panel’s report released Nov. 16 was unsparing in its criticism, concluding that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”

“He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit,” the report said.

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The Ethics Committee did not make any recommendations on how to deal with Santos, saying that doing so would involve a lengthy, trial-like process that would only give Santos more opportunity to delay accountability for his actions.

Instead, the committee simply submitted its report to the House. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., and the panel’s chairman, then followed up with his resolution to expel Santos. Guest called the evidence uncovered in the investigation “more than sufficient to warrant punishment and the most appropriate punishment, is expulsion.”

But a vote on the Guest resolution has not yet been scheduled. House Speaker Mike Johnson said in Florida on Monday that he has spoken to Santos at some length over the Thanksgiving holiday and talked to him about his options, but it was not yet determined how the House would proceed.

“Whether its our resolution or the Republican resolution that comes forward, it’s going to be bipartisan, I think it’s going to be overwhelming,” Garcia said.